Bryce Harper supplied all of the offense for the Nationals last night with a three-run home run off Henderson Alvarez in the bottom of the first inning. He joined some exclusive company in the process.
After hitting 22 home runs as a 19-year-old rookie last season, Harper now has 20 home runs in his age-20 season. Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com notes that he’s just the second player ever to have two 20-homer seasons before turning 21 years old, joining former Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro (1964-1965).
Harper also has the third-most home runs (42) before his 21st birthday. Conigliaro is second all-time with 56 while Hall of Famer Mel Ott is first with 61. Harper might have been able to make a run at those two if he wasn’t dealing with nagging injuries for most of the season, but he’s still doing some very special things at a young age.
The Orioles don’t yet have the worst record in baseball. They’re tied for the most losses with 16, but they have two more wins than the Marlins and one more than the Royals, so let’s say that they have overachieved to this point. Kudos to being a bit plucky in the early going!
But make no mistake: the Orioles are not a good team and I suspect they will soon be the worst in the league. When they are, they will likely get blown out quite often and when they are blown out they will put position players on the mound more than almost any other team. Heck, they’ve done it three times already this year and the season is only three weeks old.
The latest Orioles position player to pitch was catcher Jesús Sucre, who took the mound in last night’s 12-2 loss to the White Sox. And he wasn’t half bad! He retired the side in order and needed only nine pitches to do so:
There once was a time when it was a novelty to see a position player pitching. It happens all the time now, partially because of blowouts, partially because teams have decided it’s better to get embarrassed a bit than to burn a bullpen arm in a game they’ve given up trying to win.
I suspect the Orioles will take the practice to a whole new level in 2019, though. For better or for worse.